Discernment. This isn’t a topic we spend a lot of time discussing. Often, the word is used to describe what happens when one is able to tell the difference between truth and error. It is also used to discuss the difference between wisdom and foolishness…or able to discern between quality and inferiority.
People who are discerning have a certain kind of wisdom. They can see beneath the masks of those who tend to be fake. They know who the people are that give good advice and who the fools are that aren’t worth listening to.
Discernment takes time, questions, soaking in truth…and life experience to develop
Discernment takes time to develop. It doesn’t come to a person overnight! You spend a lot of time soaking in truth and being around honest people. Then, when the dishonest and counterfeit come along, you know it immediately.
That may sound a bit simplistic, but of course it isn’t simple. I think I’d add that asking lots of questions also helps too. Don’t take all statements at face value. Go a little deeper below the surface. What does the person mean? What do they mean by how they say what they say? Ask for clarification when you don’t understand something. The more specific you are when you ask, the more you will learn.
Of course, we can go overboard here too. We can get almost paranoid about the motives of others and dig a little too deep. There is a balance. You need to learn where your weakness is here and aim in that direction. Once again, be sure you aren’t listening to friends who tell you what you want most to hear! That is not the way to grow or mature.
If you aren’t sure, based on input from trusted friends and your gut…which is undependable at best, continue to ask GOD to show you what is true. He has a way of making it clear. Sometimes all the trusted friends say the same thing, sometimes circumstances happen that make it clear what our motives are…and we just have to step back and say, “Ok, now I see what you were talking about.”
With time and life experience, we grow in discernment. We learn to pick up on who is trustworthy, who isn’t. Who is wise, who is foolish…rarely based on how cool they look.
Consider who is giving advice. Do they know what they are talking about?
When choosing regarding advice we take, consider the kind of advice you need and the credentials the person has (if any are needed) to give the advice. I remember giving breast feeding advice to someone once…over a period of time. I was a nurse, a successful breast feeding mom of 2 (by then) who had assisted other moms in a place where there wasn’t a lot of helpful advice available. What did she do? Took the advice of her mom who never breast fed. Why? Because she didn’t want to hurt her mom’s feelings.
My discernment alarm went off big time. That was her decision,of course. To her, it was more important to do what her mom wanted than to sucessfully breast feed. I had to back off.
In the end, it was her life. She had to live with the consequences of her decision. But I learned that in teaching people information that is needed for certain times in their lives, they aren’t always wise. They often go for the short term goal (keeping mother happy) vs. the long term goal (being able to breast feed). A simple illustration that applies to many situations.
Have you developed the trait of discernment?
Are you around people who will help you develop it…that is, truth lovers, genuine, humble, wise livers?
For help in developing discernment, take time to read the book of Proverbs. Much of the book covers the contrast between wisdom and foolishness. No, it isn’t written as a book of guarantees, but by looking at the contrast in this poetic book, you can learn a lot about what is wise and what is foolish.
Be sure you have some wise, discerning friends to learn from.
Learn to ask questions instead of just believing the first thing you hear.
photo: from my friend Linda Gore’s garden in Athens, GA